Tuesday, January 31, 2017

See Rings two days early!

There are many, many reasons you might want a break this week. So we have one for you – free passes to see the upcoming movie Rings two days early!

The American remake of The Ring came out 15 years ago, back when most people probably had the means to watch a cursed videotape. This time around, it looks like Samara's video has ended up on YouTube. That's probably way more efficient for cursing people. Although there are plenty of cursed videos on the internet already.

We have passes to see this movie tomorrow night, Wednesday, February 1st, at 7pm in Friendship Heights. We only have physical passes this time, so you'll have to swing by the Media Services desk in the library to grab one. As always, keep in mind that advance screenings are intentionally overbooked. Show up early to guarantee a seat.

John Hurt

Last week, we were saddened to hear of the passing of John Hurt. As Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times wrote:
“A film blessed with his presence had at least one actor who looked as if he had been harrowed straight from Hell. Hurt could do you any suffering you wanted: noble, sardonic, wry, railing, comical, tragic. He hired out his gravelled drawl and lined and haggard features, like a weather map of ever-warring fronts. And he combined a thoroughbred theatre-trained eloquence with a film actor’s gift for mischievous miniaturism.” (Nigel Andrews, FT 1/28/2017)
Here is a sample of his films in our home use collection:

Alien - HU DVD 885
Dead Man - HU DVD 1429
The Elephant Man - HU DVD 1535
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - HU DVD 6041
The Lord Of The Rings (1978) - HU DVD 2972
Snowpiercer - HU DVD 11486
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - HU DVD 4317
V for Vendetta - HU DVD 5558
Watership Down - HU DVD 9336

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Watch this year's Oscar nominees

The Oscar nominees for 2017 are out!

Keep in mind that awards are political and determined by the arbitrary makeup of whichever group is voting for them. That said, this year's nominations already seem richer and more varied than usual. There's far greater diversity, led not just by Moonlight and the recent hit Hidden Figures but across the board in acting and production categories. Most shocking for us, at least, was the Best Documentary nomination for O.J.: Made in America, the first Oscar nod for ESPN Films.

As always happens, most of the Oscar nominees were released late last year. You'll have to go to the theaters to see La La Land, but we have a few of the nominated films available to check out.

Hell or High WaterHU DVD 13629
Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay

Captain FantasticHU DVD 13625
Best Actor

Kubo and the Two StringsHU DVD 13637 and HU BLU 13637
Best Animated Feature, Best Visual Effects

ZootopiaHU DVD 13259
Best Animated Feature

O.J.: Made in AmericaHU DVD 13289 and HU BLU 13289
Best Documentary Feature

Life, AnimatedHU DVD 13661
Best Documentary Feature

Hail, Caesar!HU DVD 13258
Best Production Design

The LobsterHU DVD 13642
Best Original Screenplay

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Star Trek: Axanar

Star Trek has one of the most vibrant fan communities in Federation space and beyond. (If you have any doubts, check out Trekkies: HU DVD 744.) But like so many fan communities, Trekkies occasionally find themselves on the expensive side of copyright infringement lawsuits. While there's no profit in learning Klingon, there is certainly the possibility of profit in creating a 90 minute film with a budget of over a million dollars. And that is, from a copyright holder's perspective, a bit of a problem.

The issue of where to draw the line between fan and creator is at the heart of the debate over the fan-produced film "Axanar," which spurred a copyright infringement lawsuit pitting its creator against CBS and Paramount. The proposed film is set 21 years prior to Star Trek: TOS (HU DVD 6203), and planned to use copyrighted materials extensively. As you can see from the above "Prelude to Axanar," the film would certainly have been impressive: far above many fan created works, and worlds beyond our dearly departed Trek in the Park. A settlement allowing two short films to appear online without commercials was reached last week. This issue has been widely covered (see Ars Technica and the NYT) in part because the lawsuit represents a deviation from previous attitudes about fan created works deriving from the Star Trek franchise.

This conflict arises again and again as the line between consumer and producer is blurred. Anyone can write fanfiction. We may reach a similarly leveled playing field in film. In Star Trek's case, an open submission policy once allowed fan-written material to make its way into the canon. Now, fan-produced works, including fan fiction and fan films, make up a thriving dimension of the Star Trek universe. Whether to embrace these efforts or play lawsuit whack-a-mole is a problem faced by creators who reach any degree of success. Who gets to participate, and how, is a negotiation happening right now in our culture and our courtrooms. And while it's not the final frontier, it is certainly a strange new world.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

See off the Obama presidency with Southside with You

Today is the last day of the Obama presidency, so we have a special recommendation from our latest batch of new titles.

Southside with You is a pretty risky concept – a romantic drama based on Barack and Michelle Obama's first date in Chicago. Casting the young Obamas while they're still in the public eye must have been extremely intimidating, but by all accounts, the film pulls it off pretty well. Critical reviews suggest that it's a great romance movie, even ignoring the fact that it happens to be about the current president.

If you want to get wistful, now is the chance. Southside with You is now available for checkout (HU DVD 13639). Grab it now, because the AU Library will be closed tomorrow in observance of Inauguration Day. If you're looking for something more timely for post-inauguration, consider Paul Verhoeven's movies about violence, capitalism, and mass media instead.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Silent Movie GIFs shows the sausage-making behind old special effects

Special effects aren't usually exciting anymore. Filmmakers can create worlds and human beings from whole cloth now, so digital trickery doesn't wow like it used to. 100 years ago, though, every difficult shot took a herculean effort.

The Twitter account Silent Movie GIFs recently shared a few explanations for how silent films pulled off their most difficult shots. Many involve the clever use of matte paintings and partially blocked shots. In the above clip from Sherlock Jr., the motorcycle and trucks were filmed separately; the rest of each shot was blacked out, then both were combined.

The level of work needed to pull off even the simplest shots makes you appreciate how relatively easily we can now throw Spider-Man into a movie.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Horror films had another strong year

For all the jokes about 2016 being terrible, last year was in fact a year of horror – for film at least. As Slashfilm points out, 2016 had an unusually strong showing of horror movies of all stripes, and the site's Jacob Hall attempted to break down what led to the genre's success.

Hall mentions a litany of factors, like a focus on character and intimate settings. Two of the biggest driving forces, though, seem to be politics and auteurs. Last year's horror movies embraced politically charged messages (like the uncomfortably timely Neo-Nazi horror of Green Room), and many others fit the mold of an alienating arthouse film that might turn off broader audiences. The author cites the divisive The Neon Demon in particular filling a niche that wouldn't exist without the director's vision.

We see some immediate parallels to the best horror of the 70s, movies like Dawn of the Dead that used their horror for inventive scares, terrific visual art, and social commentary. We'll admit some skepticism too, but the horror renaissance kicked off by It Follows in 2015 is apparently still going.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Take a vacation to the worlds of Studio Ghibli

Ghibli films are notoriously immersive and transporting. From the forests of Princess Mononoke, to Yubaba's bath house in Spirited Away, the worlds of Studio Ghibli are complex, beautiful, and utterly real. How is this feat accomplished? Here's one take:

Even if you're not an anime fan, after watching Asher Isbrucker's video essay, you might be inspired to check out some of AU's collection of Ghibli films:

Castle In The Sky - HU DVD 2978
The Cat Returns - HU DVD 13290
From Up On Poppy Hill - HU DVD 8901
Grave Of The Fireflies - HU DVD 823
Howl's Moving Castle - HU DVD 2979
Kiki's Delivery Service - HU DVD 6077
My Neighbor Totoro - HU DVD 4709
(Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Winds - HU DVD 2977)*
Only Yesterday - HU DVD 13276
Ponyo - HU DVD 6937
Porco Rosso - HU DVD 10216
Princess Mononoke - HU DVD 1206
Spirited Away - HU DVD 586
Tale Of The Princess Kaguya - HU DVD 11898
The Secret World Of Arrietty - HU DVD 7986
When Marnie Was There - HU DVD 13297
Whisper Of The Heart - HU DVD 10126
The Wind Rises - HU DVD 11597

*Did you know, Nausicaa is technically not a Ghibli film?!